I love Christmas, I really do! It’s my favorite holiday and my favorite time of year because the air is charged with a different kind of spirit and expectation that something’s coming. Even though I love Christmas and I’ve been listening to Christmas music since way before it was socially acceptable to do so (sorry to anyone who has ridden in my car in the last month), it still seems to sneak up on me, and then pass with more of a fizzle than a bang… so, in expectation of Christmas, and in an effort to get my mind right for the holidays, I am going to do a short devo every day leading up to Christmas built out of some of my favorite Christmas carols. I hope you’ll join me for some or all of these next 12 days of Christmas!
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Emmanuel is one of those words you only really hear at Christmas time. This is sad because it’s such an important word and hope. Emmanuel is both an idea and a person. Emmanuel means “God with us” and Jesus as Emmanuel is God with us. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV). This is a promise made hundreds of years before Jesus was born, and the fulfillment of a hope that God’s people have had since the garden of Eden, that they will once again dwell with the Lord. The story of Emmanuel is really undergirding the story of human history.
Here’s what I mean when I say the idea of Emmanuel undergirds human history. In the beginning God created everything, including people (Genesis 1). He placed the people in a garden paradise and God himself would walk with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Emmanuel is where we started! Mankind sinned, and in sinning broke their relationship with God (Genesis 3). Even though people were now broken and sinning against God, God did not want to leave them this way. God made a plan to redeem mankind to right relationship, to dwell with him. God sought out a man named Abraham and called him into a faith relationship with Himself to build a people that God could dwell with, and through whom God would reconcile the world to Himself (the rest of Genesis). Those people became slaves in Egypt, and in that time grew in numbers. God rescued His people out of slavery and out of the hands of the most powerful empire in the world at that time, and brought them into the desert to worship Him (Exodus 1-15). In the desert, God gave His people instructions on how to be His people in the midst of the nations (Exodus 20). After this, God promised to go with His people and dwell among them. He had them build a tabernacle, a tent that would be the physical dwelling place of God among His people (Exodus 26). God led his people through the desert, and gave them a land to dwell in (the rest of Exodus and Joshua). In that land, God’s people continually sinned and messed up, but God did not abandon them (literally the rest of the Old Testament). Instead of leaving them, God promised them a day when He would atone (pay for) their sins and make them new from he inside-out so that He could dwell among them forever (Ezekiel 36:26-28). God promised to do this by sending a savior. This savior would be God with us, and would take our sins upon Himself to pay for them (Isaiah 7:14; 53). When the book of John talks about Jesus coming, it says “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 ESV). What’s really cool is that in the Greek, the word for “dwelt” is the same word that the Greek Old Testament uses for tabernacle. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to dwell among us! But the good news doesn’t stop there. Jesus does pay for our sins, and he does make us right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He doesn’t leave it at that though, He gives us the Holy Spirit. God Himself comes to dwell in us to make us more like Jesus until the day we are with Him in heaven (Ephesians 1). If that weren’t already more than we could ever ask for or imagine, God has promised the day when Jesus will return to establish an eternal kingdom where God will dwell among us forever in perfection and glory in a new restored Eden (Revelation 19-22). Emmanuel is God’s plan for human history.
I hope this story, as condensed as it is laid out here, gives you hope and appreciation for this amazing truth. Emmanuel is not just for Christmas, Jesus is God with us now and forever. Let’s celebrate Emmanuel this Christmas.
Pray: God, thank you that you did not leave us in our sin, but you sent Jesus as Emmanuel to save us. Help me to remember that truth all the time, not just at Christmas, and bring quickly the day that you return to dwell with us forever. Amen.